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Five seasons ago, Keyport was on the cusp of its finest moment when the Red Raiders reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship game. The run ended with a loss, but it showed what could be possible for coach Kyle Keelen and his program.

Heading into 2021, the COVID-19 continues to impact the country – both in direct ways and some more residual. With respect to high school sports, small Group I programs with relatively low numbers from year-to-year are feeling the hit and Keyport is in that group. The Red Raiders have only a dozen players on the varsity team and are hoping a handful of their better players can carry the load and that the group can stay healthy for the entire season.

The good news for Keyport is junior Anthony Longo is two years removed from an impressive season as a two-way freshman in the Class B Central division. Longo will be the No. 1 pitcher and play shortstop on his non-pitching days to lead Keyport into battle this season.

Three other starters from 2019 return for the Red Raiders, with senior Sean Lachky back at catcher, senior Eon Hospital moving to third base and junior Jack DiPaolo returning to centerfield. All three will be important pitchers as well, with DiPaolo and Hospital likely to follow Longo as the other two starters in the rotation.

Sophomore Mason Hospital will jump in to play first base and freshman Carter Williams will be a second baseman when Longo is at shortstop and could see shortstop time with Longo on the mound, with senior Jayden Graham factoring into the infield picture as well. Juniors Tim Connanllon and Josh Dswonyk will play the outfield corners alongside DiPaolo.

This season is going to present additional challenges to teams like Keyport, but if the Red Raiders can persevere, there is reason for hope. The four returning starters with Longo leading the rotation give Keyport a chance to advance in the Group I postseason, which is on track to return in June.

Keyport at a Glance

Head Coach: Kyle Keelen, ninth season
Key Losses: Lucas Dant (INF/RHP), John Lachky (3B), Chris Johnson (OF), Bryan Mattos (1B), Adrian Sabatino (OF), Tristian Blashfield (OF)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2019 starters in bold with available stats)

Catcher: Sean Lachky, Sr. (.275/.370/.300, 1 2B, 3 R, 6 RBI, 6 SB)

First Base: Mason Hospital, So.

Second Base: Carter Williams, Fr.; Jayden Graham, Sr.

Shortstop: Anthony Longo, Jr. (.276/.447/.345, 2 2B, 10 R, 9 SB)

Third Base: Ean Hospital, Sr. (.206/.372/.206, 8 R, 6 RBI, 8 SB)

Left Field: Tim Connanllon, Jr.

Center Field: Jack DiPaolo, Jr. (.200/.355/.280, 2 2B, 6 R, 3 RBI, 8 SB)

Right Field: Josh Dswonyk, Jr.

Other Key Hitters

Reese Meehan (Sr., OF)

John Trojacki (Fr.)

Tylor Robertson (So.)

Pitchers

Anthony Longo, Jr., RHP (3-2, 2.61 ERA, 32.1 IP, 27 H, 9 BB, 32 K)

Jack DiPaolo, Jr., RHP (4.1 IP, 0-1, 11.31 ERA)

Ean Hospital, Sr. RHP

Carter Williams, Fr., RHP

Sean Lachky, Sr., RHP (3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 5 BB, 7 K)